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[ba-unrev-talk] Fwd: Re: digital physics contd

The discussion continues...
I, for one, think this thread to be of interest to those of us who fuss 
with the capture and representation of "knowledge."    (01)

Jack    (02)

>Sender: VCU Complexity Research Group <COMPLEXITY-L@VENUS.VCU.EDU>
>From: John McCrone <j.mccrone@btinternet.com>
>Subject:      Re: digital physics contd
> > HP:  What is important to me is knowing the limits of our knowledge. This
> > is a "big deal" problem of epistemology.  I do not see how we can know
> > reality except by our brain's (or sensorimoter system's) constructions or
> > models of reality.
>JM: I've acknowledged before that yours is clearly a productive orientation
>to the issues and I may be pursuing an unproductive path in seeking "more
>But it is also true that I have come at epistemology from the other
>direction - from mind science rather than physical science - and that leads
>me to question some of your apparent assumptions here. For a start, I think
>you may not make enough allowance for the socially-scaffolded nature of
>human "sensorimotor" models of reality.
>The human brain is - loosely speaking - a generative neural network (as best
>modelled by Stephen Grossberg, among many others including Hebb and Mackay).
>It develops its anticipations through interaction with the physical world.
>But its development is also guided (controlled?) by two sources of systems
>information - genes and words. Both contribute to the shaping of its
>This is not to say, in Whorfian fashion, that language structures human
>perception. But there are subtle influences even at the level of "raw"
>perception which epistemology must acknowledge, or at least be able to
>explicitly rule out for the sake of completeness.
>Is this cautionary note relevant to the present discussion? I think it is as
>human grammar and attentional style (the lateralised brain) both bias us in
>favour of seeing reality in terms of discrete, agential, cause and effect
>chains of events. It is "natural" for us to antropomorphise and see the
>world in terms of control (will) rather than contextual constraint
>In short, the standard human mental style has been shaped by the standard
>human social lifestyle over the past 40,000 years or so. The way we think
>about reality fits the needs of social existence and is not a pure
>reflection of sensorimotor experience (see articles on feral children, etc,
>on my website).
>Another epistemological level conclusion that I draw from the bifold (genes
>and words) nature of the human mind is that you cannot ignore the cultural
>level of consciousness. Your epistemology locates cognition in individual
>human heads. My epistemology suggests that there may be a higher level of
>understanding - that which could be said to exist in the "head" of a
>Now I don't claim that society has really achieved that much cognitive
>organisation as yet - science is still carried out in too individualistic a
>fashion for that (Western science follows the romantic model, just as
>Western society does generally).  But if we are talking about
>epistemological limits, that is one direction in which the boundaries may
>well be pushed back. And a direction that does not seem to be modelled in
>your otherwise very crisp description of the whole business of epistemology.
> >HP: Now the problem is that there is no empirical test for continuity
> > all measurements are discrete and subject to error. Therefore, no matter
> > how small  dx, or how smoothly we conceive of motion, we can never
> > demonstrate that there does not exist a smaller unobservable discrete
> > plenum or matrix. Furthermore, mathematics shows us that what even what we
> > mean by continuity can only be made precise by a finite set of discrete
> > symbols.
>JM: By the same token, there would be no empirical tests of discreteness. No
>matter how fine the measurement, the continuum may actually conceal
>discreteness. So ultimately, we cannot get our answers from empirical
>measurement. Nor could we get certain knowledge from the models themselves -
>didn't Godel prove that <grin>?
>These limits - empirical and theoretical - are acknowledged freely. The
>question then is how does science negotiate a course? The answer is that it
>pushes as far as it can go through the interaction of measurement and
>theory. The outcome is what perspective best seems to describe the resulting
>journey - a discrete or continuous ontology.
>Most physicists, eg: Wolfram, seem to be saying that reality mostly ends up
>looking digital at the end of the day. You suggest that you see it as a
>split decision - continuity and discreteness seem to win out (or lose out)
>about equally. Or equally enough for us to seem far from any useful
>conclusions about the trend in the data. I am arguing that I see reality
>looking mostly continuous - and that most systems thinkers, like Rosen, are
>distinct from the herd in coming to the same conclusion.
>Perhaps I am wildly overstating matters. But it seems that science, as an
>institution, is becoming more digital in its perception of reality. This is
>certainly the case in mind science. And with digital physics, it seems true
>there as well.
>Thirty years ago, the battleline appeared to be drawn between reductionism
>and holism, or the mechanical and the dynamic, or the mechanical and the
>organic, etc. Now with discrete vs continuous causality, I think the actual
>battleline has come into much better focus. This is what Rosen appeared to
>recognise in Essays on Life Itself. Victory on this issue could be decisive
>in a way that reductionism/holism, or mechanical/organic, was not.
>Maybe, as you say, there is no good test to decide the issue in favour of
>either camp. And therefore digital physics will prevail as the digital view
>is what people generally prefer. But it seems worth having a go at pressing
>the case of continuity as the deeper ontology. The stakes are high enough.
>from John McCrone
>check out my consciousness web site
>          http://www.btinternet.com/~neuronaut/
>neuroscience, human evolution, Libet's half second, Vygotsky and more...    (03)